Sept 27, 2007
Sometimes, less is more. Other times, less is, well, just less. And in the case of NBA 08, less is definitely not everything we were hoping for. While Sony's PlayStation brand-exclusive series has historically trailed its counterparts on the court, the PS2 versions have sported a detailed career mode called The Life for two years running. These basketball soap operas have easily become some of our favorite guilty pleasures. Unfortunately, the PS3's NBA 08 still has no Life, nor any semblance of a multi-year franchise. Even if the fundamentals rocked hard - which they don't - we'd be complaining loudly that we need more from it in order to tear us away from the superior competition this season. Simply put, that ain't gonna happen.
Enough about what's not in the game - what about what did made it onto the disc? NBA 08's claim to fame this season is twofold. First off is an RPG-style character builder, allowing you to create a hoops Frankenstein and slowly transform him from a clumsy doofus who's all knees and elbows into a rampaging, inside-outside dominator that makes Kevin Garnett look like a J.V. waterboy. We have to admit it's pretty darned addictive, especially since you're able to pile up credits toward your progeny and scads of unlockables when playing each area of the game, from meaningless exhibitions to online grudge matches and the host of mini-games.
The second unique aspect is the Games of the Week mode, promising to make plenty of new scenarios available during the interminable 2007-08 season based upon what happens all year long. We're not as jazzed up about this, mostly because a somewhat similar set of challenges based upon last year's campaign is also present as a separate mode. No matter what, it's tough to be all hot and bothered about reliving a mid-season matchup between the Hornets and Grizzlies. While we do get a kick out of being encouraged to throw down with all of the teams in the league, it's not enough to make us stop yearning for The Life.
Speaking of yearning, the action on the court leaves us wanting as well. While the development team has made some important strides since last year, there's no denying that your basketball jones won't be totally satisfied. Player movements are wooden, the arenas are downright dreary, and the play-by-play announcers are clearly under the influence of Ambien. To be fair, gameplay is definitely smooth, and the famous red-yellow-green shooting mechanic returns (a blessing or a curse, depending on who you are). We're definitely fans of the alley-oop triggers, too, easily the best way we've ever seen to send your high-flyers to the rim for some delicious dunks.
Ultimately, NBA 08 is a decent next-generation b-baller. In a vacuum, it's not too shabby, but when compared to its competition this season, it's the red-headed stepchild in a crowded room. A solid foundation exists, but more work is needed to bring this series a championship ring.